It was 2012, I was at the Man Up conference in Atlanta. As we waited for it to get started a song begin to play that was incredible. The mix wasn't perfect but the first verse was jarring. It sounded like it was glorifying a lifestyle that was anti christian. As the hook came in you could hear at that point that the song was actually going some place. Quickly I asked my homeboy to my left who was it. He said you haven't heard this? It's Swoope's Schizo. He said dude Swoope probably dropped one of the best CHH albums of all time.
First order of business after the conference was to get my hand on the album. My homeboy wasn't lying. The album was incredible but there was something that stood out on the album. Three songs had this guy singing on them and his voice was incredible. It was like silk and it just made each of the songs better. He was lowkey starring on Swoope's album. Fast foward to September 2012 and Christon Gray released Body Art. I remember listening to it and saying to myself. This is incredible. It was at this moment that I realized that Reach no longer had the best roster in CHH. Collision had arrived.
School of Roses followed Body Art and I think by this point it became apparent that Christon Gray was well on his way to being a transcendent star. All seemed going well for Collision and then Christon and Collision went their seperate ways followed by Swoope. Christon signing with Kirk Franklin's Fo Yo Soul label was a surprise and now we get the first album from that pairing. The album starts with The Glory Pt. 1. A song written and produced by Gray. He flows nicely from singing into rapping to close it out. Better intro than School of Roses. Next up is Stop Me. Christon comes out firing on a track produced by Max Stark. This track is hard and Christon clearly has a lot to say. The Christian Hip Hop industry is more messed up then people on the outside realize and Christon tackles it head on. This song is a bit unexpected from him. It has a very Sho Baraka feel to it. I love this song and clearly this album isn't going to be School Of Roses part 2. The next song is Fort Knox. A song that anybody who has been in a serious relationship can relate to. This is real life music. Max Stark again comes through with some dope production. Next up is Afraid with you. This song could have been on School Of Roses. I love this song and find myself singing along every time it comes on. This is more real life music and I'm glad to see songs like this become more accepted in our genre.
50 Shades is brutally honest. Christon clearly has some things on his heart. I enjoyed this song, it has a Drake like level of ranting on it. The middle of the song you hear a voicemail from Kirk Franklin letting Christon know that he is free on Fo Yo Soul and its apparent throughout this album that is a true statement. Connor McDees.....is hard. Your favorite rapper's rapper Skyzoo starts the song off followed by Christon's less popular but equally talented brother Taelor Gray. The three of them go off and Christon continues to air out his feelings on the industry and I love it. The track is hard again and this ends part 1 of the album.
The next song is No 51 and its clear that the first half of the album was Christon getting some things off his chest. This song takes the album in a completely different direction. This is a happy song and is one of the best songs on the album. The beat switch towards the end of the song oh...my....goodness. I can't stress enough how good this song is. Open door reunites Christon with the man who was largely responsible for Body Art (he produced some of it and A&R it) and School of Roses (A&R and produced the majority of it as well as recorded the album in his house) super producer Wit. This was the first song we heard from Christon after his departure from Collision. Clearly the magic is still there when the two of them connect. My Love is real is incredible. The switch up from the verses to the hook and bridge is incredible. Clearly a stand out track on the album. This song makes the second half of the album. This song is awesome.
Nowhere is a very big song, apparently the song has been around for a while and was on the demos tape he released. Its clearly been reworked and sounds great. Black Male Interlude is the intro to Black Male. This song tackles a very real issue that every black man can relate to. I'm happy to see Christon tackle this issue. From a content standpoint this song was a nice touch. The final song is Follow You and for some people it's what they expected of Christon Gray after signing with a Gospel label. This song is excellent and I can hear this song being sung at a church during the alter call. It is the classic coming back to the lord song. As someone who roots is in Gospel music I really enjoyed this song though it clearly didn't fit this album. And honestly that would be my only critique of the album, there is a lack of continuity with the album. If felt like two seperate projects with a few songs that doesn't fit either of those projects are put together as one album. However the songs are so good on this album that it works. This album is really good, I mean really good and I would highly suggest picking it up. I give it a 4.5 out of 5. Trust me you won't regret it if you give this album a chance.
About The Author
Kevin Hall is a father of two, son to one, and a friend to many. He is a native of Camden New Jersey but currently resides in Atlanta, GA. Kevin is a producer for 620 Music Group and self-described music connoisseur. @khall620